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Proposed changes from the UK government will weaken the mineral planning system further and threaten the replenishment of aggregate and other mineral reserves, according to the UK’s trade association for the aggregates, asphalt, cement, concrete, dimension stone, lime, mortar and silica sand industries.

The Mineral Products Association (MPA) has responded to the government’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) consultation, setting out why it would adversely affect the segment which it said represented the largest material supply in the economy, and which was essential for the construction industry and manufacturing.

The draft revised NPPF incorporates policy proposals previously consulted on in the Housing White Paper and the consultation on planning for the right homes in the right places consultation. The NPPF consultation period ran from March to early May.

The MPA said that at a time when supplies were becoming increasingly strained, the need to ensure an adequate and steady supply of aggregates and industrial minerals had arguably never been stronger.

It said, “Given the government’s focus on the need for more housing and infrastructure, it needs to make the link to the requirement for a resilient supply chain of raw materials in order to secure sustainable solutions, and ensure security of mineral supply over the medium and long term.”

The MPA added that there was a worrying tendency in government and its agencies to assume supply without understanding what is needed to enable supply.

“An efficient and effective mineral planning system with up-to-date plans, well-resourced planning departments and good data are prerequisites, as is appropriate capacity and capability in MHCLG (Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government) to ensure the system is planned, monitored and managed,” it said.

“Without a strategic approach to the future supply of aggregates and mineral products such as cement and lime, concrete, asphalt and industrial minerals, it is inevitable that supply strains will increase over the medium to long term.”

The MPA said its own figures showed that the 10-year average replenishment figure for sand and gravel reserves was only 60%, indicating that sales continued to outstrip the amount of new reserves permitted.

It said this was against a backdrop of over 3 billion tonnes of construction aggregates being required to service national demand to 2030 and beyond.

“If adopted, the proposed changes to the NPPF would reverse the long-held recognition that minerals, and in particular aggregates, are essential, which has been the central tenet of the Managed Aggregate Supply System since the Verney Royal Commission introduced the process in 1975,” the MPA said.

Similarly, it added, proposed modifications to the policies on landbanks and stocks of permitted reserves would jeopardise the future adequate provision of key mineral products, including crushed rock, cement, lime and industrial sands, all critical to construction and manufacturing.

‘Long game’

Nigel Jackson, MPA chief executive, said, “Mineral planning is a long game, with the development process needed to bring forward a new operational site typically taking up to five to 15 years.

“Supply cannot be assumed. It needs planning, monitoring and managing nationally, regionally and locally, which in turn requires a robust, long-term policy framework.”

He added, “The growing gap between aspirations around housing and infrastructure delivery and the supply chain means the government’s ambitions are potentially at risk from the outset, and they must give the long-term development of mineral resources as much encouragement as the developments and end-uses which rely upon them.

“We will continue to work with government and key stakeholders to help make the link between essential mineral products which underpin the economy and our quality of life.”

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